Where The Wildflowers Grow


Wildflower landscapes are by far the most challenging assignment I give myself each summer! High up in the mountain basins, slopes and gulches, is where you go to find columbine, paintbrush, king’s and queen’s crown and more. Getting to them, finding a good patch with minimal distractions, and that then align with an interesting background, is most of the challenge! Combining the wildflowers and landscapes together helps viewers experience a better sense of place. The daisies in this set are more accessible since they grow a little lower.

Ideally my goal is to get wildflowers prominent in the foreground, and a mountain feature in the background. In order to get everything sharp close and far, I always use a tripod. My Canon 16-35mm is my usual lens of choice for wildflower landscapes. I focus-stack, taking exposures at select focal points (close to far) in the scene. I bring the frames into Photoshop using ‘load files into stack’ and check attempt to align. The files with different focal points come in as layers and I use masks to blend them according to sharpness. Using a tilt-shift lens is another way to get this desired affect. I need to consider the pros and cons of an investment in one as they are quite expensive.

First light light up a peak across a lake while daisies line the shore.

‘Daisy Delight!’ © Denise Bush
click here to view larger or order a print

Daisies grow wild near the Red Mountains in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado.

‘Daisies Below Red Mountains’ © Denise Bush

Sneezeweed makes a bright appearance in summer alpine meadows in Colorado.

‘Sunny Sneezeweed Meadow’ © Denise Bush

Queen's Crown and other wildflowers soak up a morning rain in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado.

‘After A Rain’ © Denise Bush

Boulders and wildflowers are the subject of this scene just below a high mountain pass.

‘Three Boulders & Wildflowers’ © Denise Bush

Pink paintbrush takes a staring role in this summer, apline scene.

‘Paintbrush Below Cloudy Ridge’ © Denise Bush

Pink paintbrush create a beautiful scene in the high elevations of Colorado.

‘Pink Paintbrush Paradise’ © Denise Bush

King's Crown is upfront in this summer wildflower scene, shot in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado.

‘King’s Crown & A View’ © Denise Bush

WordPress Reader/Retina display Viewers: Please click on ‘Visit’, ‘Visit Site’, ‘View Full Site’ or the title of the post for the sharpest viewing experience. Images are optimized in the WordPress Reader, and will not look sharp using a Retina Display screen. denisebushphoto.wordpress.com

66 Responses to “Where The Wildflowers Grow”

  1. Beautiful shots, Denise.

  2. Yes, yes and big yes… love the flowers. It is so fleeting here in SJ land.

    • It is fleeting here too … plus you are risking your life to get to some of these places! Therefore I didn’t go as often and I would have liked. The flowers are past peak now.

  3. Lucky you to have such majestic scenery to play the wildflowers off against. You’ve certainly got your technique down: everything from close to far looks sharp in all the pictures.

    • I thought about pulling out the 100 macro but the landscape is always calling. It seems I have gotten a little better at the blending technique. Have you ever used a tilt shift for flowers?

  4. 8 bcplimpton

    Love them all but am especially drawn to ‘Sunny Sneezeweed Meadow’ and ‘Daisies Below Red Mountains’. These inspire me to try some focus stacking for landscapes.

    • Hi Barry! For other kinds of landscapes I am usually using a 24-105mm and focus stack whenever there is a close foreground and distant background. A wide angle like my 16-35mm is especially good for getting the flowers close because it allows focusing up close, as in your two favorites. The wide angle also has greater depth of field to start with. Thanks for visiting and letting me know your favorites.

  5. I see there is a handcraft behind these beautiful landscapes, which are beautiful because I hadn’t guessed there is some techno-wizardry to get all in focus. In my country I think there are not those options but I think maybe near you there are places to rent photographic equipment, to see if the saved time outweighs using normal equipment. ‘Daisy delight’ is magical, and ‘King’s Crown & A View’ have lush greens and deep crimson, they are my favorite among a series in which I like them all. Thank you, Denise.

    • Hi Frances. I have rented lenses before and am thinking of doing that. Lensrentals.com and borrow lenses.com are two that I have used. I think I can also borrow one from Canon Pro Services. Thanks so much for visiting and letting me know your favorites!

  6. Mountain wildflower meadows are so beautiful, their wild inaccessibility makes them all the more appealing. I appreciate your skills in bringing their beauty to us, Denise. Gorgeous series!

  7. 15 Deb

    Love all the daisy ones!!

  8. 17 Bonnie Rovere

    Just love them all!!

  9. Your photographic skill is certainly evident in these images. As always, you have an opportunistic “eye” for the best shots.

    • Hi Michael! I was just thinking I hadn’t heard from you in a while. I need to visit your blog to see what is new. Thanks for your comment!

  10. These are wonderful wildflower and mountain photos. I won’t pick a favorite since I like them all, especially the first three and the last one. That last one seems unusual and different to me. I do not recall seeing this wildflower, but I probably have. Anyway, that group in the foreground looks good with the mountains and sky in the background.

    I purchased a used Nikon 24mm T/S lens a few years ago from a Dallas photographer that used it for wedding photos. I’ve used it very little, but often take it along on my outings, thinking I need to practice more with it. Mine is the older all manual model, so it is a bit of work to use. I also purchased a used Nikon 85mm T/S from another photographer, after seeing some unusual landscape photos made with one. That one is an old, manual model, too. It does produce some unique landscape images, but I have not used that one very much, either. It take lots of practice and time to experiment with those type lenses.

    • Thanks Ken. The fourth and fifth flowers are called Queen’s Crown or Rosy Crown and they are related to the King’s Crown in the last image. You’ll see the foliage is the same. I know there is a learning curve with the Tilt-shift lenses which is a good reason to rent one first!

  11. One other thing, I like to focus stack, but I’ve not really tried this with wildflowers. A few years ago, I got frustrated with Photoshop’s focus stacking, as it was very slow and often had artifacts. After some research, I tried Helicon (30 day free trial, with no trial markings on the results) and found that it works fast and reliably. I later purchased a license. If editing needs to be done on the stacked image, it can easily be done within Helicon. So far, I’ve been very pleased with that software.

    • I do not use automatic blending in Photoshop. I stack the independent layers then use layer masks to manually paint on and blend the layers. I do not have any problems with artifacts. I think the helicon software works really well for blending macro images that have very limited depth of field.

  12. Stellar set, Denise!

    • Hi Rich! I am glad you approve. Getting some wildflower landscapes I am happy with was very challenging for me for several reasons. I’m kinda glad the flowers are on their way out!

  13. The wildflowers have been so incredible this year! Wonderful captures!

    • Thanks Diana! The rain and cooler temps let the flowers hang around a bit longer. Hope you are enjoying summer… I will check in soon!

      • I’m headed to the San Juans in a couple days… let’s hope the flowers stick around a little longer!

      • It was a wet and cooler July so you should still be able to find some. July is typically the best.

  14. “King’s Crown & A View” for the win! Thanks for answering the question, “How did she get these amazing images!?!?!” I’d say you have met the challenge!

    • Thank you Carlos. If I had just shot one frame focusing on the foreground flowers, even at 16mm, f/16, the mountains would not have been in focus. Nothing wrong with that kind of shot, letting the background blur but just not what I was after. I think our eye sees everything in focus … right? 🙂

      • Yes… appreciated a behind the scenes look. I haven’t hiked that far into Photoshop or photographic techniques. Thanks again.

  15. I’d say that you were up to the challenge, Denise. These all work very well both as landscapes artistically and story tellers for sense of place.

    My widest lens at one point was the boat anchor 24-70 which I still carry because I like to suffer. 🙂 When I decided I needed something wider it came down to one of two choices…the 16-35 or the 21T/S. The 16-35 won out for obvious reasons. I rented the 21T/S from Lens Rentals before making my choice and think I chose wisely. I think that in most cases stacking works great as long as it’s not a windy day. At one point I owned the 90T/S for flowers etc. but ended up trading it in for what I don’t remember. Somedays I am sorry about that.

    ‘Daisies Below Red Mountains’ and ‘Sunny Sneezeweed Meadow’ are my two faves but, as always, all are enjoyable and excellent shots.

    • Thanks Steve! Good to learn about your experience with the tilt-shift lenses. While I used the 16-35 for all but 1 of these, my favorite lens is the 24-105 because of the range. I fell and broke my old one in September and after a 10 month back-order I have the newer II version. I used my 70-200 a lot when I was waiting and it is now my second favorite lens.

      • I dropped my 180 two years ago, I think. The polarizer was jammed on and was not removable but at least the glass elements were okay. The mounting collar was destroyed and that took longer to come in than the repair took. As you might guess it’s my favorite lens and I hoped it didn’t have to be replaced and I’d get a less sharp copy. CPS took care of me and the lens is still a great performer. But I still don’t always use the lens hood because it’s a long way in to the polarizer. 😀

      • OUCH!!!! Have you borrowed through CPS? I’m not sure how it works.

      • Only the loaner while the 180 was in the shop. Have you used the free tuneups? They do a quick turn around. I work Tuesday through Friday normally so if I send the equipment needing a checkup on Monday afternoon after my shooting is done I usually have it back by Friday afternoon or Saturday at the latest. The only downside is all settings need to be reset. I don’t send the Mark IV in very often for a cleaning as it hardly ever has a dust bunny on the sensor. I have no intention of ever buying the 100-400 or 600 but I have considered a loaner just to see what I am missing. 🙂 I have the gold membership. I qualify for platinum but don’t really need those benefits at $300.

      • Thanks for the info!

  16. You’ve reminded me it’s getting to be prime time for alpine flowers on Mt. Rainier. I haven’t noticed them so much on Hood.
    While it would be fun to play with a tilt-shift, it seems like the payoff for landscape wouldn’t be that great, especially with ever-improving focus stack programs.

    • Hi Dave! I am surprised to hear prime time is August in the Cascades. Peak is in July in Colorado. I haven’t used any stacking software. I bring the frames into PS on their own layers and then manually paint on layer masks to expose the parts I want according to sharpness. The more I think about it the more I’m thinking a tilt-shift is not for me.

  17. Thanks to all my blogging friends for your comments and thoughts! I use them to link back to your blog, see what you are up to and reciprocate!

  18. 44 Ken Curtis

    Sorry that I could not view your images until now. Been busy. Now that I have seen them, all I can say is Wow, Wow, Wow. Love these images. I dream about being able to get images like these. Great work, Denise.

    • Don’t ever worry about checking out my posts! There is no deadline. I am very glad you like them as I respect your expert opinion. Thank you! 😊

  19. 46 mrsg13@comcast.net

    These are my new favorites, they are all so beautiful. Great job as always. Xoxo

  20. What a treat, Denise, and it’s interesting to read about your process.The second photo has something special, with that joyous burst of daisies arrayed against the very dignified, distant mountains. The color palette in the third photo is beautiful, the way it stays in the yellow-green realm and works out all the possibilities that are there. The details in the Sneezeweed flowers and the soft clouds above are perfect. I love “After a Rain” too because it has a cool mountain feeling and a real sense of being in the wilderness with the background dissolving into nothingness. I remember King’s crown from your photos in the past and once again, I love that plant! What a great photo to end with – it has it all. Thanks for making the effort, it’s certainly worth it. 🙂

    • Thanks very much for your thoughtful comment and review! The fourth and fifth images are Queen’s Crown or Rosy Crown. The foliage is the same. I’m very glad you enjoyed these images! 🙂

  21. All of those images are so pretty!

    I’ve had a tilt shift lens on my wish list for what seems like forever, but as you say they’re so expensive I haven’t bought one. It would be nice to have one though wouldn’t it.

    • Hi Deborah! I think we should both rent one and then compare notes. I’m thinking it might not be for me. They are tricky to use. Both the Canon 24mm and 17mm tilt-shift lenses are manual focus in addition to the learning curve of getting the tilt and shift just right. The 17mm has convex front element so you can’t put a filter on it. The first is a little less than 2 grand and the second is a little more, new. There are probably a lot of used for me to choose from with many switching over to mirrorless. I have used lensrentals.com and borrowlenses.com and like lens rentals better. Glad you like … thanks for stopping by!

      • I did rent the Nikon 24mm tilt-shift lens years and years ago for a week-end and it wasn’t enough time for me to really get it.

        I was thinking the same thing that prices might come down on them now that everyone is going mirrorless. Time will tell. They seem to hold their value really well as even used they’re expensive!
        Back to renting…I’ve only used Borrowlenses and like them. The camera store up in Reno has a few rentals, but I haven’t looked to see if they have a t/s lens. They’re small so inventory to pick from is limited.

        Now you’ve given us both food for thought…😄🤗

  22. 56 Amy Golden

    Beautiful wildflower pics. Is this Crested Butte? I’d love to go there.


    Sent from my iPhone


    • Thank you. No this is in the high mountain basins and passes near me. Crested Butte has a Wildflower Festival every 2nd week of July. There are wildflowers all over in the mountains though … most up quite high, accessible by jeep or hiking.

  23. Wow… Such beautiful photos and landscape!

  24. Beautiful! I love wildflowers, but I’m almost never in areas that have expanses of them. Of the wildflowers you show, I think I like the sneezeweed the best.

  25. So beautiful, this series.
    I really like how you photographed the flowers but also show their surroundings.

  26. Not only do you capture wild flowers beautifully, but you include the topography they are a part of. Your work is awesome!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: